Luke kicked off his flip-flops and wiggled his toes in the hot sands of Playalinda Beach. Holding his brand-new Billabong surfboard, his sky-blue eyes scanned the glassy waves pounding the purity of the shores at his favorite place to surf. Playalinda Beach, part of Canaveral National Seashore, remained unblemished from any commercial development which tarnished most of Florida’s beaches.
He inhaled the salty scent of the ocean as the mist of the crashing waves lightly sprayed his face. He tossed his head to the side to remove his overgrown, sun-streaked, blonde hair from his eyes. He examined the waves, smiling at their four-to-five foot peaks as he contemplated the optimal place to put in his six-foot surfboard.
Turning to the left, he looked north towards New Smyrna Beach, the shark-bite capital of the world. Luke enjoyed the view of nothing but waves, sand, and vegetated dunes diminishing in the horizon. He turned to the right to a view just as beautiful, plus one Space Shuttle nestled against Launch Complex 39A off in the distance at Kennedy Space Center.
After deciding to start slightly north of his current location, he speared the tip of his surfboard into the sand, allowing it to stand upright. He slowly removed his Def Leppard T-shirt from his tanned, muscular upper body and threw it on the sand along with his towel. He removed his car keys from his Lightning Bolt board shorts and wished he had a girlfriend to tote all of his crap.
He opened his small canister of Zinc Oxide and dipped two fingers into the thick, cold goop. He rubbed the white sun-protection on his nose without a thought about protecting the rest if his body from the harmful rays of the sun. He grabbed his wax and slowly rubbed it on his surfboard. Luke inhaled the coconut aroma as he meticulously covered the areas where he’d soon plant his feet to ride the waves.
He grabbed the leash connected to the surfboard and secured the velcro strap around his left ankle. He pulled his surf board out of the sand, tucking it under his arm as he walked north about fifty-yards. He trekked through the sinking sand of the shoreline and tossed his board flat into the water. After guiding his floating board until the water reached his thighs, Luke lay his torso on the board and paddled through the glassy waves.
The water temperature felt perfect, warm enough to avoid the hassle of his wetsuit, yet refreshing enough to invigorate him. His arms stroked through the water as he paddled towards the open Atlantic Ocean. As the remains of a crashed wave rolled towards him, he automatically submerged the tip of his board into the water while simultaneously lifting his powerful upper body to allow the wave to flow between him and his board.
Luke paddled past the waves and sat up on his board. His legs dangled in the water as he admired the unusual clearness of the salt-water. He watched the bait fish swim briskly below him and almost wished he couldn’t see the bottom of the ocean floor. He silently debated if he wanted to see what swam in the waters beneath him; sometimes ignorance is bliss.
He regretted watching Shark Week on the Discovery channel the night before. He wished he’d never learned the close proximity of sharks to the shores of Florida’s beaches, or how sharks often confused the dangling limbs of surfers on their boards with edible seals. Luke couldn’t risk the ridicule of his friends calling him a pussy because he felt afraid to go into the water, so he sucked up his fears and said a silent prayer.
A rush of excitement filled his lungs as he saw a perfect wave rise towards him. He rotated his board to face the beach and dipped his arms into the water to paddle towards shore. He felt the wave lift him and the board up as the force propelled him forward. Luke placed his hands on the board and his strong forearms quickly pushed up as his feet automatically planted themselves on the rear half of the board.
Luke kept his knees bent as he squatted on the board. Using his hips, knees, and feet, he rotated the board back and forth as he rode the four-foot wave perpendicular to the shoreline. With the wave tunneling behind him, he rotated the board up, attempting to catch air. He felt the board coming out of the water and rotated the board back down onto the wave. He wiped out face first into the wave, swallowing salt water as the board leash yanked him towards the shore.
Praying nobody he knew witnessed his wipeout, he stood on the ocean floor in waist deep water until his bearings returned and his head stopped spinning. His ankle throbbed with pain as he recalled the fin of his board scraped him during the wipeout. He lifted his injured limb out of the water and examined the small amount of blood oozing out of the scrape.
Something swooshed near his legs, and Luke prayed the cause was merely the swirling current from the recently crashed wave. He hopped back up on the board and paddled out beyond the breaking point of the waves. He sat on his board, letting his feet dangle in the water below.
Luke saw the shark fin about twenty yards out, swimming perpendicular to the shore. He gently lifted his dangling legs out of the water, cursing for not remembering something so simple as blood attracts sharks. He lay on his floating board with all of his appendages safely out of the water, praying for the recognizable bull shark fin to pass by.
In an instant, the fin turned towards the shore, heading straight for him. Oh shit! Luke paddled frantically, scared to have his arms in the water, but more scared to risk floating on a surfboard as a shark swam towards him. As he paddled faster than he ever thought humanly possible, he heard the screams of sunbathers watching in horror from the shore.
Luke never looked back to gauge the shark’s location, he just kept paddling. He felt a strong force lift him up as his board and body rose. He knew the feeling all too well. He’d just caught a wave. Squatting up on the board, he rode the wave all the way to the shore. When the board fins dragged the bottom of the shallow waters, Luke hopped off of the board and onto the safety of the sandy beach, never looking back.